Background: Exclusive breast feeding (EBF) has important protective effects on the survival of infants and decreases risk for many early-life diseases. The purpose of this study was to assess the factors associated with EBF in Nigeria.
Methods: Data on 658 children less than 6 months of age were obtained from the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2003. The 2003 NDHS was a multi-stage cluster sample survey of 7864 households. EBF rates were examined against a set of individual, household and community level variables using a backward stepwise multilevel logistic regression method.
Results: The average EBF rate among infants younger than 6 months of age was 16.4% (95%CI: 12.6%-21.1%) but was only 7.1% in infants in their fifth month of age. After adjusting for potential confounders, multivariate analyses revealed that the odds of EBF were higher in rich (Adjusted Odds Ratios (AOR) = 1.15, CI = 0.28-6.69) and middle level (AOR = 2.45, CI = 1.06-5.68) households than poor households. Increasing infant age was associated with significantly less EBF (AOR = 0.65, 95%CI: 0.51-0.82). Mothers who had four or more antenatal visits were significantly more likely to engage in EBF (AOR = 2.70, 95%CI = 1.04-7.01). Female infants were more likely to be exclusively breastfed than male infants (AOR = 2.13, 95%CI = 1.03-4.39). Mothers who lived in the North Central geopolitical region were significantly more likely to exclusively breastfeed their babies than those mothers who lived in other geopolitical regions.
Conclusions: The EBF rate in Nigeria is low and falls well short of the expected levels needed to achieve a substantial reduction in child mortality. Antenatal care was strongly associated with an increased rate of EBF. Appropriate infant feeding practises are needed if Nigeria is to reach the child survival Millennium Development Goal of reducing infant mortality from about 100 deaths per 1000 live births to a target of 35 deaths per 1000 live births by the year 2015.